A brief history of parenting and grandparenting
BY RICHARD AND LINDA EYRE
Parents and Grandparents have always existed, but putting an “ing” on them is something of recent vintage.
Up until post-WWII America, “parent” was simply a name for someone who had a child, and “grandparent” was the noun for that parent’s parent. Neither word was used much as a verb,
and the notion of putting an “ing” at the end, so the word meant a skill or an art or science, had not occurred to many people.
Then, in 1946, Dr. Benjamin Spock published Baby and Child Care, and the age of parenting as something to learn and to practice started in earnest. Instead of something you did by instinct or by simply following the example of your own parent, it became a field of knowledge, or at least opinion, and it began to be defined as more than an academic discipline for people studying familial relationships and child development—it became a whole section in bookstores and libraries and something that most parents felt they needed to learn and often felt guilty or inadequate if they didn’t.
We were born about the time Spock’s book became a bestseller, so we have watched the development of parenting and the proliferation of parenting approaches, opinions, methods, and plans for decades. Mostly, it has been a positive evolution, with parents taking the job more seriously, thinking harder about how to do it best, and paying more attention to the growth and development of their children and the relationship dynamics within their families.
“What is fascinating to us is that Grandparenting now seems to be on the cusp of a similar kind of evolution and development.”
In 1993, when our book Teaching Your Children Values was published, and with a bit of help from Oprah, it shot to number one on the New York Times Bestseller list (the first parenting book since Dr. Spock to do so), this country was hitting the heyday of popular parenting books, magazines, and programs. Since then, the variety of sources for parenting wisdom has broadened out to social media, podcasts, and YouTube channels. Every question yields plenty of alternative answers; if nothing else, parents don’t feel as alone or isolated as they once did.
What fascinates us is that Grandparenting now seems to be on the cusp of a similar kind of evolution and development. Only a decade or so ago, “Grandparent” was just something you were when your child had a child, and most did it instinctively and often delightedly—exercising their “right” to spoil their grandkids and thinking of it as their reward for getting through the challenges of parenting.
But lately, with people living longer and being grandparents for decades, and in a time when working parents and other demands on families suggest the absolute need for more proactive and supportive grandparents, we are starting to use the word grandparent as an active verb, and grandparenting as an essential skill that we need to learn.
GRAND magazine, as the only major national periodical devoted totally to grandparenting, is on the cutting edge of this trend, and major conferences and courses like our Grandparenting101.com and Aaron Larsen’s GrandparentsAcademy.com and the Grandparents Week online seminars that it sponsored and we keynoted in September are starting to become more common.
” as a reader of GRAND magazine, that you are on the crest of a very positive trend…”
The interest in more deliberate, proactive, and difference-making grandparenting has never been higher, and the perceived need to get better at it and work in effective teamwork with parents in effective 3-generation families is more evident every day.
So may we say to you, as a reader of GRAND magazine, that you are on the crest of a very positive trend, and that the time you spend thinking about your grandkids and about their needs, and about which of those needs you are uniquely positioned to help with, is time well spent. Hats off to Christine Crosby for being a catalyst of this with GRAND, to Aaron Larson and Grandparents Academy for pulling together the best experts in the field, and to all of you for being part of something that is becoming a movement—a movement toward Better, Stronger, Grandparenting. Nothing could be more favorable for families, communities, and America.
Read more from Linda and Richard here